Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Post Production Workflow

I get a lot of questions from other shooters about digital photography, and the technology behind it. I was writing a long e-mail about post production image workflow to a colleague of mine this morning, and figured there are probably a lot of people that could benefit from this stuff, so here it is.

Here's what I do, mostly learned from Peter Krogh's book The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers:

Software: Image Ingester Pro (The website is a bit cluttered, but the application rocks)
What I do with it:
- Ingest from memory cards to folders. It makes a backup of the files on a second drive during the import process
- Adds a metadata template (that I created in Bridge/Photoshop) to each image with all of my copyright, contact info, etc
- Adds a Camera RAW preset I created that sets basic exposure/colour/sharpening/etc to all of my files. (Note this helps greatly speed up final touch-ups)
- Batch renames on import to my file naming system (very customizable)
- Automatically opens the folder with the ingested, renamed, batch colour-corrected, annotated files in Bridge once it's done
- It can do more than this, but I stop here.

Image Ingester Pro

Software: Abode Bridge CS3
What I do with it:
- Add bulk metadata (location, keywords, caption)
- Check Sharpness
- Rate files with the star rating (I am very critical with my ratings)
- Once I have rated the files, I open the best (usually 2 star+) in Camera RAW direct from Bridge, and do further exposure, colour correction, sharpness, CA reduction, etc in Camera RAW. Once done, I click done. This makes the changes to the files, nothing else.
- Return to Bridge, select all the files, open them in Camera RAW, where I click "Save..." and save all the files as Adobe DNG RAW files (this takes LOTS of time, I usually cue up a bunch and let them run overnight). I use DNG files for a few reasons:
1) It stores all metadata/image adjustments, etc inside of the file itself, not in an XMP sidecar file that can get lost.
2) It can store a full-res JPG preview of the colour corrected RAW file inside the file itself, which makes batching out lo-res very fast (see Step 3)

Adobe Bridge CS3Thumbnail View

Adobe Bridge CS3Checking Sharpness

Adobe Bridge CS3Camera Raw Adjustments

Software: iView MediaPro (now Microsoft Expression Media)
What I do with it:
- Add further, more detailed keywords and captions to individual, high-rated images (optional)
- Organize images into iView's "Catalog Sets"
This basically completes my capture-to computer workflow. iView is now the basis for everything I do with my images. I use it to:
- find files for myself and clients
- batch out lo-res JPGs (I can batch out 400 DNG files to lo-res JPG in 2 minutes for agency submissions, and because of the rating work I did in step 2, I can quickly find my best)
- send files to Photoshop for more critical colour work. Any changes made are reflected back in iView
- pretty much everything else

iView MediaProiView's thumbnail view. You can see an overview of the ratings of all of my files on the top left, an overview of all of my "Catalog Sets" center left, and the actual folder structure where the images are stored on my hard drive bottom left. Catalog sets are like virtual folders, an image can live in as many of these as you'd like, without affecting where the physical file is located on your hard drive.

iView MediaProiView's Media view. Here you can view images as full screen or actual size, and you can also see all of the EXIF & other metadata on the left.

Note that my RAW (DNGs of course) file structure is based on Peter Krogh's "Bucket System". Basically I make a folder called RAW_001, and fill it until it is full. How do I know when it's full? When it's the same size as the backup media I'm using (currently DVD+R, which are about 4.5 GB). Because I'm doing all of my organization in iView, I am free to use my folder structure as a platform for simple backups. Once a bucket is full, I back it up to DVD, make another folder and put any new files in there. Repeat as necessary! It was odd to switch from descriptive folders and filenames to functional ones, but once you let go, life is much simpler.

Apple's FinderMy RAW folders

My folder structure for files that are newly ingested and haven't been converted to DNG's and/or imported into iView yet is a bit different.

Apple's FinderMy working files folders. I rarely use 1_RAW, 2_Renamed is where the files get saved to during the import process with ImageIngester, 3_Ready for DNG are files that have been rated, batch colour corrected, checked for sharpness, etc, 4_Converted are where the files are saved to after converting to DNG, and 5_Transferred to Archive are DNG files that are done, and have been copied to my main image drive. They live here until I have made a DVD backup of the bucket they were copied in to. Once copied into the current bucket, I launch iView and import them.

It took me months to learn all this stuff and then implement it on about 20,000 old scans and dis-organized digital files, but now keeping up with high volume shoots is much more manageable. Questions or comments? Fire them in the comments below.

Update: Part 2 of this series is now available here.

Cheers, Josh
Copyright © 2008 Josh McCulloch.

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